By Nathanael Ng writing in The Christian Post
Attitudes of uncertainty, fear and ignorance still dominate among church leaders on the advent of the digital revolution.
But for churches to impact society, pastors need to understand the changes and maximise their use of IT, highlighted an Anglican priest.
Writing for the latest issue of Trinity Theological College's Church & Society in Asia Today magazine, the Reverend Canon Terry Wong of St. James' Church said: "The Church should not relegate IT issues to technicians and hobbyist.
"Leaders, pastors, theologians and thinkers need to give leadership to these matters."
Key to pastoral ministry is regular communication between pastors and their church members and fellow leaders, Canon Wong pointed out.
Current IT tools can help pastors enhance that communication. And these tools are neutral, the priest emphasised.
"A pastor who wants to communicate will use whatever tools there are at his disposal," he said.
Giving specific examples, he highlighted that email communication provides a 'great' avenue for teams to work together.
"Our teams include lay leaders who do not share our work premises and work with us remotely," he said. "They receive inspirational ideas during the week and are encouraged when they know their pastor enjoys listening to them."
Twitter, Facebook, e-prayer letters or web logs are a convenient means for church members to be updated on the work and ministry trips of their pastors.
Church websites are important. This is because today many will first visit a church's website before turning up in church or at its office, the priest highlighted.
It is challenging to design or redesign the church website and to keep it updated, he acknowledged. For this reason, collective efforts could be made within a denomination to help each church do that.
It is advantageous for pastors to be knowledgeable about and comfortable with IT. Even if they are not, they can give space and encouragement for lay leaders or younger staff to contribute.
Web logs can supplement pulpit ministry to help church members know and understand the Christian perspective on devotional, moral or social issues.
Moving to another subject, Canon Wong encouraged churches to offer sermons online without charge. This will make the resources easily available for those from Third World countries.
Teaching journals or magazines should be made available online, the priest proposed.
As things stand, however, the Church appears to be 'losing the race' in terms of shaping beliefs and culture, he observed.
The issue is not a lack of relevant voices, he pointed out. Rather, it is one of churches not making good use of the digital medium and being slow to adapt.
"The Church has almost become a ghetto, speaking only to herself," said Canon Wong.
Many churches still bear vestiges of the era of the Reformation, with truth usually communicated semantically. Some attend churches where the Gospel is merely re-enacted.
It is not surprising then that youths are leaving traditional churches by droves in most societies, the priest noted.
"On Sundays, they enter a church singing formal songs and listening to the sole preacher," he said. "On weekdays, the world engages them in a whirlwind of networking, self-expression, meaningful interactions where truth and reality are experienced collaboratively, viscerally and relationally."
Consequently, Christianity is in danger of becoming irrelevant to them, he warned. "By ignoring the digital revolution and failing to connect with our youths today, the church has practically chosen to stay out of their lives," he said.
Moreover, people today are gathering in the cyber-world according to their hobbies and interests rather than political or religious lines.
And yet churches are seeking to establish their denominational distinctive or work in isolation from other Christian bodies.
"People on the street... are seeking for spiritual reality," said the priest. "And many of the terms used to classify denominational distinctive mean very little to them."